Work experience is key to getting into graduate work. However, the Covid-19 pandemic has put a huge dent in the number of internship and placement opportunities offered by employers. Lack of relevant work experience is now a top concern of job-seeking students.
There is, however, some good news on the work experience front. The Institute of Student Employers (ISE) has said that in some sectors the shrinkage in opportunities has levelled off, while they are increasing in other sectors.
In the meantime, students and graduates who didn’t get the work experience opportunities they wanted shouldn’t worry – there are many valuable things you can do outside formal work experiences to develop your skills, knowledge and confidence and bolster your CV, as well as gaining an edge in your next application. Here are just a few ideas.
Develop your knowledge of the industry or sector you are interested in
Take a virtual internship
Employers now offer a number of opportunities to work with them virtually, and you can gain insights about what it’s like to work in that company or sector. Some places where you can look for virtual internships include:
- Bright Network’s “Internship Experience UK”, which hosts eight sector-specific virtual internships experiences across June and July 2021. These are three days of live employer-led events, networking and real-world project work. Applications are open now, closing from 22 June (dates vary by programme). If you can’t make it, you can access on-demand afterwards.
- Forage, which offers virtual work experiences set by employers. They take about five to six hours to complete and cover 13 sectors including tech, public health and consulting.
There are many other places to find virtual internships, or you can contact the companies where you wish to do an internship to see if they have any opportunities.
Connect with alumni of your university working in that area
You are already part of a network of thousands of industry professionals. Search for alumni from your university, find out the companies they work in, and see what they do. Contact them by sending a tailored message, ask for a short call, and you’re on your way to boosting your knowledge as well as building positive relationships.
- Check out LinkedIn. Most universities have a specific page listing all their alumni
- TARGETjobs has great tips on putting your profile together
- Make the most of any networking platforms offered by your university, where current students and alumni can make connections, offer insight and support, and even provide ongoing mentoring.
Attend events, webinars and networking sessions from employers and organisations
There are more opportunities than ever to connect online. Employers are offering more online events and more often. Sign up for formal sessions or join online discussion groups to develop your knowledge about your sector of interest.
- Attend employer events through your university careers service: large-scale careers fairs, smaller-scale knowledge-sharing panel events, presentations from a single employer – all are valuable for learning and connecting
- Graduates at many universities can attend careers events, too
- Student and graduate employment organisations
- Does your area of interest have a professional body? Many run interesting online events and offer student membership for reduced rates.
Develop yourself and your skills: all activities can be valuable
Employers look to hire graduates with skills they can use and develop in the workplace, some technical and others transferable. There are almost endless opportunities to develop these skills and boost your CV at the same time.
- For tech skills, online learning opportunities have never been so plentiful and, in many cases, free. Many universities have free subscriptions for students to access online learning platforms
- The list of transferable skills is almost endless, and the ways they can be acquired innumerable. Take part in university societies, blog/vlog, add to your portfolio, start a project or campaign, design an app, set up a friend’s website, tutor, volunteer in a community group: there are myriad ways you can develop teamwork, communication and many other skills.
Make use of all the support available to you – you’re not alone
Universities, employers, the government and many other organisations recognise the challenges that all students and graduates face in the current labour market.
University careers services are set up to help students and graduates take positive next steps into work experiences and careers.
Additional barriers exist for some students to gain experience and enter a graduate career – black students and students from ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, students who are first in their family to go to university, students from low socio-economic backgrounds, and more. There are many initiatives working to support such students to overcome those barriers by offering work experience opportunities, mentoring, skills workshops and more. These include:
Trying to find a job throughout the pandemic has been a challenge for many students, so here are some tips on how to boost your career prospects